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Carbon economy fuels job growth

Sun Advocate editor

Carbon County posted a 10.1 percent employment expansion rate during the one-year period between March 2008 and March 2009.

Last month, Carbon reported 10,389 active participants in the local labor force. By comparison, the number of the county's employed workers totaled 9,437 in March 2008, 10,260 in January 2009 and 10,329 in February 2009.

Although the local economy fueled job growth, the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that Carbon's unemployment rate climbed to 5.9 percent in March from the 5.3 percent jobless level recorded in February.

Carbon County concluded 2008 with an average annual 4.3 percent unemployment rate.

At the state level, Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job count contracted 2.6 percent last month.

Approximately 32,800 jobs were removed from the state's economy in the last year, based on data generated by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The numbers continue to decline, but they are doing what we expected to see them do for this month," commented department of workforce services economist Mark Knold. "There are no surprises. We have several more months of additional falling numbers ahead of us yet."

"But there are some encouraging signs or green shoots that may be emerging in the national economy," continued Knold in the state agency's latest report. "These include a stock market that probably has moved above its low point, national housing sales showing an uptick unemployment claims - though still harmfully high - no longer rising. These sprouts signal an approaching bottom, which is the next reference point along the path of this current business cycle."

Utah's unemployment rate continued to rise in March and the state's second primary indicator of labor market conditions registered at 5.2 percent last month.

In March 2008, Utah recorded a 3.3 percent jobless rate.

"Even though the economy is sluggish, it does not mean that jobs are not available," pointed out the DWS economist. "The Conference Board does a monthly help wanted online data series that is a measurement of help wanted ads posted on Internet job boards. The reading for March 2009 was 34,600 Utah ads posted through these sources. Granted, the number was as high as 53,000 as recently as November 2008 so, yes, the volume of available jobs is lower."

"But the job market is still functioning. There is much job churning that always occurs within the economy even when the overall level of jobs in the economy is contracting. Most of the headline news focuses upon the total job contraction as it tells the tale of the general health of the economy. But it can leave the impression that the job market has completely shut down and that is not the case," explained Knold

Nevertheless, the department of workforce services employment analysis confirmed that the majority of Utah's industries shed jobs in March and the labor force contraction continued to accelerate statewide.

Only Utah's government, education, health care and natural resources sectors posted job gains during the last year.

Utah's construction industry recorded the highest number of job losses last month. Losses are gaining momentum and the non-residential side is adding weight to the negative slide.

Manufacturing was the state's second hardest hit industry in the economic downturn.

Areas in the manufacturing sector recording employment decreases included furniture, sporting goods, cement, glass, wood products and transportation equipment.

"Education seems to play a role in determining who it is that might end up being laid off," indicated the DWS economist. "Or maybe another way of saying it is that jobs that are filled by workers with a limited education are more vulnerable to being laid off."

"Since the beginning of this year, 34 percent of those filing for unemployment insurance claims had less than a high school education," explained Knold. "Thirty-nine percent have a high school education or one year beyond. Another 15 percent of filers had 15 to 16 years of education, and the remaining 12 percent had 16 years of education or more."

At the national level, the United States unemployment rate continued to escalate, hitting the 8.5 percent mark in March, concluded the latest economic analysis report issued by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

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